How Is a Bail Amount Determined?

When you hear about criminal proceedings and people being released from jail on bail, you may hear something like “The judge set bail at [X amount].” But how is bail determined? Is it just some arbitrary number the judge pulled out of his or her brain? Or is there a defined process that a judge follows to determine an appropriate bail amount — or whether he or she sets bail at all?

At A Way Out Bonds, we’re here to tell you that bail is never an arbitrary number. Rather, judges factor multiple conditions and circumstances into setting a defendant’s bail. It’s also important to note that depending on the circumstances surrounding the alleged crime and the amount of information the court initially has access to, a set bail amount can change.

Continue reading to learn about the factors that help a judge determine an appropriate bail amount for each defendant.

Bail Schedules

In certain areas of the country, defendants can post bail with the police before they have a bail hearing or arraignment. This is because many jails have posted bail schedules that specify predetermined bail amounts for many common crimes. If an arrested defendant can pay his or her own bail according to the jail’s bail schedule, he or she can usually obtain a release from jail immediately.  

In general, bail amounts for felonies are between five and 10 times the amount required for misdemeanors, but bail schedules vary from state to state. They can also vary according to the type of crime and whether the defendant is a resident of the local area. 

Severity of the Crime and Surrounding Circumstances

Generally, if an alleged crime was particularly severe or violent, the judge will issue a correspondingly high bail amount. Judges typically have a set of guidelines that they follow to determine appropriate bail amounts for specific classes of severe and violent crimes. However, the general rule is this: the more severe the crime is, the higher the bail will be.  

Amount and Validity of Current Evidence

If the court has a large collection of evidence that strongly points to the defendant as the person responsible for the alleged crime, a judge may set bail high. Typically, a judge will take this route if he or she determines it is the best course of action to prevent the defendant from making a run for it to avoid a conviction. 

It’s the judge’s responsibility to ensure the defendant does what he or she must according to the law. So if a conviction seems imminent according to the body of evidence, a high bail amount may be necessary to ensure the defendant stays put until the case is closed.  

The Defendant’s Conduct

If a judge determines that a defendant may be a danger to themselves or others, bail may be set high. Or, if a defendant was previously required to appear in court and failed to do so, the judge may also set bail higher in an attempt to ensure future court appearances. The defendant’s conduct during the arrest can also affect the amount of bail set by the judge. 

Existing Criminal History and Current Criminal Status

When a defendant has an existing criminal history, this may indicate to the judge that he or she cannot be trusted to conduct themselves in a lawful manner. In such instances, a judge may set bail higher than normal to both protect the community and ensure the accused individual appears in court according to the law. If the defendant was previously convicted of unusually violent or severe crimes, bail will inevitably be set high. 

In addition to past crimes committed, a judge will also take into consideration the defendant’s current criminal status. If the individual has a current warrant for his or her arrest, is on probation, or is on parole, these factors will heavily impact the final bail amount.  

The Defendant’s Ties to the Community

If the defendant has close ties to his or her community, such as family members, a place of employment, business dealings, a home, or property, these factors can affect bail. A person with ties to their community is typically more likely to remain in the area while they await their court appearances, so the judge may not set bail higher than normal. 

The Defendant’s Finances

When a judge determines that a defendant’s current income was acquired by illegal means, he or she may set bail higher than usual. For example, if a defendant was arrested for selling drugs, the judge may set bail higher to ensure the individual appears in court as instructed. Generally, when drugs are involved in an arrest, the street value of those substances affects the final bail amount. The higher the value of the drugs, the higher the bail amount will typically be. 

Potential Flight Risk 

If a judge determines that a defendant has a high flight risk — a high probability that the individual will skip out on court appearances if allowed to post bail — bail may be set high. 

Depending on the judge’s discretion and the severity of the alleged crime, he or she may set bail exorbitantly high or, in some cases, not set bail at all. This is especially true if the individual previously skipped out on court dates connected to another arrest. Taking this route ensures that the defendant will remain in place while awaiting his or her court dates.

Need a Licensed Bail Bond Agent?

At A Way Out Bail Bonds, we’ve proudly served the bail needs of individuals throughout the Dallas–Fort Worth metro for nearly 30 years. We specialize in securing rapid release from all jails in the area and are available 24/7 for your convenience. For fast, comprehensive bail bonds in Dallas, TX, and the surrounding areas, contact our office today at (241) 760-9978 in Dallas County or (817) 261-2828 in Tarrant County.

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